Forced Ethanol

I, myself, am opposed to ethanol subsidies from the government. I think it is a waste of money. Your mileage may certainly vary.

In any event.this made for an interesting read in the AJC.

In the next month or so, you will possibly notice that when you buy gasoline for your vehicle, the dispenser will be freshly labeled “may contain ethanol.”

In fact, over the next several months, the majority of gasoline in the greater Atlanta area and in time the entire state will contain approximately 10 percent ethanol. This is being introduced by Georgia Department of Agriculture as a “voluntary” measure. While voluntary to the petroleum companies, it is far from “voluntary” for the general consumer.

Inevitably, by spring, all gas you buy will be ethanol-bearing. You will have no choice, simply because the big oil companies that distribute the fuel for all the major brands will be mixing ethanol into their gasoline. Ethanol producers receive a 51-cent per gallon federal subsidy. Just remember that the subsidy comes out of your pocket.

You may think ethanol is a good thing and you are helping the nation wean itself off dependency on foreign oil. You could not be more mistaken.

18 comments

  1. Bill Simon says:

    Exactly, Erick. Aftr all, we know that High Fructose Corn Syrup is bad for us…it just goes to follow that pouring corn likker in our tanks won’t be good for us either.

  2. Doug Deal says:

    This is what happens when lawyers, real estate brokers and business men make the laws that deal with science and technology.

    Ethanol is an extremely foolish idea, and will do less than zero to reduce imported oil. The presence of ethanol reduces the energy per gallon and it costs more energy to produce than it delivers.

    It is about as effective at reducing gasoline consumption as diluting gas with water.

    There are viable answers to reducing fuel imports, but this is just insanity.

  3. StevePerkins says:

    Ethanol is a good thing, just not CORN-based ethanol (which takes almost as much energy to produce as you get out of it). Ethanol from sugar cane is dramatically superior… it’s made Brazil energy-independent, and a global exporter of the fuel. However, we levy huge tariffs on sugar-based ethanol because… wait for it… it competes with our corn-based version. Insane.

    What’s crazy is that people on both the far-right AND the far-left acknowledge that tariffs and corn subsidies for ethanol are crazy. The Right supposedly dislikes protectionism (well, other than southern “conservatives” like Saxby)… while the Left dislikes large corporate farms and any group other than the government getting too much power. However, neither side’s leadership really DOES anything about it… probably because they fear facing Iowa voters should they ever run for President (reason #487 why I’d be happy with a McCain victory this November).

    Technology may render the whole debate moot soon enough. Ethanol from switchgrass, timber, and other cellulosic materials is almost as good as sugar cane… and is getting close to being perfected for mass production. Interestingly, Georgia is a national leader in this emerging trend… we’re building one of the first such production plants in Treutlen County.

  4. Doug Deal says:

    Steve,

    Brazil gets 30% of its energy from Ethanol. It became energy independent because of its own deep water sources of oil, which we routinely make untouchable in the US.

    Also, we are not talking about Sugar Cane, as it is not a crop that can be grown over most of the US. It is a tropical crop that can be mainly raised in Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Even if it is easier to make into Ethanol, on a per acre basis, it is only slightly more energy dense per acre than corn, it is just easier to extract as corn. From my memory, if every corn grower grew corn only for Ethanol production, it would supply at best 12% of our needs.

    This would mean we would have to plan just as much corn to serve as livestock feed. If I remember correctly (I used to work for Gold Kist co-op HQ) about 70%-80% of the cost of a chicken is in feed. That means that the much much higher cost of feed would make meat protein a luxury item.

    Also, the best efficiency that you can get out of the production of Ethanol out of corn is 1 BTU units of ethanol per each 0.77 BTU energy consumed from other sources. For gasoline, it is about 1 BTU of gasoline per 0.2 BTU energy units consumed energy.

    The above does not include the energy expense of delivery. Ethanol has to be trucked everywhere as it is extremely hydrophilic and immiscible in water. In pipelines it would be rendered unusable. The energy lost in distribution would mean that you are simply converting the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline from one fuel type into another.

    For the low low price of making meat prohibitively expensive, vehicular fuel prohibitively expensive, we can potentially have zero positive benefits to the environment. What a bargain.

  5. StevePerkins says:

    I didn’t say that Brazil runs exclusively on ethanol, I said that ethanol allowed Brazil to reach energy independence… by replacing about a third of its petroleum usage.

    I also did not say that the U.S. should switch to growing more sugar cane, as you are correct in that our climate is generally unsuitable. However, I said that it is foolish for us to slap huge tariffs on IMPORTS of sugar-based ethanol. Brazil and other South American nations are already huge exporters of ethanol (and growing)… they still use petroleum because most engines currently cannot run on pure ethanol and require a blend.

    Sugar cane contains 30-50% more sucrose than corn, and requires dramatically less energy to extract. Cellulosic sources of ethanol (i.e. switchgrass, timber), such as that being produced here in Georgia, produce five times more energy than it costs to produce… and have minimal impact on food prices since those materials are not used for feed, and are typically grown on land unsuitable for other crops.

  6. Doug Deal says:

    Steve Perkins,

    Cellulosic sources of ethanol (i.e. switchgrass, timber), such as that being produced here in Georgia, produce five times more energy than it costs to produce… and have minimal impact on food prices since those materials are not used for feed, and are typically grown on land unsuitable for other crops.

    When that happens in real life large scale production facilities and not pilot programs labs and test facilities, I will reconsider. We are legislating ethanol content based on current, (read: corn) sources, not some “potential” and yet unproven source.

    I agree with you about tariffs. But, ethanol is currently nothing more than another in a long line of Federal farm subsidies and wealth redistribution. If the tariffs were removed, unviable, except with government cash payouts and protectionism, corn ethanol would become just unviable corn ethanol.

  7. StevePerkins says:

    I only throw potential benefits out there because conservatives and libertarians oftentimes get so caught up in TODAY’S politics behind an issue, they dig in their heels too deeply and don’t want to backpedal as circumstances or information changes.

    Nobody wanted to do anything serious about AIDS in the early 80’s… and conservatives dug in their heels so deeply that as more information emerged, it was hard to bring them around. Same thing happening with climate change. First it wasn’t happening, then it was happening but wasn’t mankind’s fault, then it was maybe mankind’s fault but certainly not MY fault. Opposition to issues like this isn’t always rational, it often comes from being deeply invested in arguments with the other side back when the issues first emerged.

    Of course, that’s not to completely slam conservatives. There’s some value in not being TOO quick to jump on an issue with government action before it’s fully understood. Back in the late-80’s and 90’s, the government greatly exaggerated the risk of HIV in heterosexual sex, and today surveys show that young people are backsliding on condom usage because the inaccurate scare tactics eroded credibility. Liberals need to not be so quick to jump in with government regulation, and conservatives need to not be so slow to accept changes and new developments.

  8. Doug Deal says:

    Icarus,

    If it is the drinkable kind, I say yes. One too many hard drinks and you never quite know what kind of horror you may wake up to.

    Steve,

    I have nothing against ethanol if it could be proven as a way to wean us off foreign oil, but it just needs to be proven before we dedicate a huge portion of our economy and future to it. The chemical engineer in me just knows of the difficulties of replacing petroleum fuels with virtually anything else.

    If we truly wanted energy independence, we could do so in 10 years with a full scale shift to liquefaction of coal and nuclear power. Everything needing high energy mobile fuels could then use the coal product, and everything stationary or using a battery for short term operation could use nuclear. From there, we could them work on future technologies with the national security issue of foreign dependence eliminated.

  9. StevePerkins says:

    I need to wear condoms to promote the use of ethanol?

    Ehh.. it never hurts, Icarus! I frequently make sure that I have some lube handy before I click the “Submit” button on my Peach Pundit comments.

  10. Shakin the bush boss says:

    Good comments. This spring we will have $4 gas, and $6 milk. Maybe the kids will drink gas.

  11. StevePerkins says:

    Just a guess here, but I think you will mess-up the mouse if you use too much “lube” while blogging.

    Sigh… it’s a metaphor, you killjoy.

    Where is switchgrass grown? Can I invest in a plot of land to grow it?

    From what I understand, switchgrass can be grown pretty much anywhere that isn’t a blazing desert or a frozen tundra. It’s never really been considered a “crop” before… the only places where people deliberately plant it is for livestock grazing. I don’t know if you have any knowledge or experience about agriculture… but if you want to “invest” in a plot of land for it, I would imagine you’d be fine (zoning law notwithstanding).

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